Increased media coverage of the global refugee crisis has prompted waves of humanitarian support and local activism across the world. Iceland made headlines when 10,000 of its citizens volunteered to house personally refugees coming from Syria, and others have followed suit in finding ways to host refugees, from Berlin to Birmingham.
Wondering about ways to host refugees in your home? Not everyone can personally provide housing, but here are three simple ways to get started in the effort to welcome refugees to America.
- Become aware of local need. It’s easier than ever to become connected to relief and charitable organizations near you. Some of the largest and most wide-reaching of resettlement agencies in the United States are the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services, both of which organize humanitarian aid in over 100 U.S. cities.
Spend some time reaching out to charitable organizations in your area to find out what their current needs are, who their clients are, and what types of schools, health or religious organizations work with them.
- Consider temporarily housing a refugee. Although refugees admitted to the United States for resettlement are usually quickly connected with local relief agencies, refugees are often vulnerable to unstable housing conditions or even homelessness. Several U.S. and international agencies are searching for individuals and families with extra rooms that they are willing to use to host recently arrived refugees, especially those in crisis or extreme circumstances.
Connect with Room for Refugees, which specializes in providing safe temporary housing for refugees living in the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe and Canada. The chance to personally share your home with a refugee can be immensely rewarding, and provide desperately needed help for those adjusting to life in a new place.Looking for ways to host refugees in your home?
Search for organizations like the Karam Foundation, a non-profit group providing aid for Syrians, which is currently seeking to help new refugees find housing with Americans of Syrian descent.Many private non-profit organizations are seeking to connect refugees with a variety of services for temporary housing, and your opportunity to help could be as close as your front door.
- Consider ways to host refugees by connecting them with neighbors. Becoming a friend and neighbor to refugees struggling to resettle may be the most powerful way to combat hateful rhetoric, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Agencies like the International Rescue Committee, among others, place a high priority on helping refugee families find friends, neighbors and support structures within their new communities. When the 2015 cap for U.S. resettlement of refugees was raised to 85,000 from 70,000, it prompted waves of polarization and xenophobia across the country.
A Pew Research Center survey even showed that a majority of Americans disapprove of helping to resettle more Syrians within our borders. The International Rescue Committee, along with other agencies, regularly recruit home mentors for refugee families, providing you with the opportunity to welcome your new friends into your home, or you into theirs, as you solidify a new friendship.
Other aid agencies are in constant need of home tutors, both for students struggling to adjust to life in American public schools, as well as adults returning to school or learning English as a second language.
While in-kind and monetary donations of food, clothing, furniture and supplies can help a refugee family build a home, the chance to be a family mentor, tutor or friend may do more to help refugees feel like they belong.
The U.S. admits record numbers of refugees, but schools and government agencies still struggle to help refugees feel at home and safe. Helping to find ways to host refugees and opening your home, either literally or otherwise, is a critical opportunity to be part of solving the world’s worst refugee crisis in 70 years. More importantly, it’s a chance to help your neighbors know that they belong.
– Eliza Campbell
Photo: U.N. Multimedia